LeBron James played at his peak during his four seasons with the Miami Heat, so it’s a pretty noteworthy achievement to surpass him in the franchise record books. It’s even more impressive when considering Jimmy Butler needed just over two seasons to do just that.
Butler went on an MVP-type tear early in the 2021-22 season, but injuries have cost him quite a bit of action. Still, his latest accomplishment underscores his status as one of the elite all-around players in the NBA, even if he’s flying under the radar thus far.
Jimmy Butler passed LeBron James as the Heat’s all-time leader in triple-doubles
It’s only fitting that Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat played LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
Butler recorded a triple-double in a 113-107 Heat victory, scoring 20 points with 12 assists and 10 rebounds. In so doing, Butler passed James for the most triple-doubles (10) in franchise history.
That achievement is certainly something Butler can hang his hat on. However, the triple-double record is more remarkable when considering Jimmy Buckets needed less than half as many games (139) as James (294) to reach 10 triple-doubles in a Heat uniform.
The Heat managed to weather the storm with Butler and Bam Adebayo sidelined for extensive parts of the season. They’ve discovered key depth pieces in Max Strus, Caleb Martin, and Omer Yurtseven, with Kyle Lowry providing two-way skills as the lead guard and Tyler Herro giving Miami an important scoring punch and secondary playmaker.
Still, while the Heat are the sum of their parts, Butler is unquestionably the engine that propels Miami to championship contention.
Butler is having an underrated season
The same names generally seem to circulate in NBA MVP conversations. Basketball fans have undoubtedly heard Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, and Joel Embiid brought up in some capacity. Others, like Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, probably deserve more attention.
Jimmy Butler’s lack of availability precludes him from being an MVP front-runner, but he’s in that latter category with guys like Gobert.
In 29 games, Butler is averaging 21.4 points, 6.1 assists, and 6.0 rebounds. He’s still flying all over the place on the defensive end, as well, racking up 1.9 steals per contest. Butler ranks fifth in total box plus-minus and win shares per 48 minutes. He’s also seventh in player efficiency rating.
The 32-year-old hasn’t made any gains in terms of perimeter shooting. Yet Butler still has tremendous success as someone who can get to midrange scoring spots and is almost impossible to prevent from getting to the rim.
It’s been a tough stretch for Butler shooting-wise. He’s made just 36.5% of his field-goal attempts in the last six games. However, Butler still has a positive impact when he’s on the floor, as he’s +24 during the six-game span.
Butler is feeling healthier. After passing LeBron in the record books, Jimmy Buckets will try to mirror James and lead Miami to a championship.
Are the Heat top NBA title contenders?
After reaching the NBA Finals in the Orlando “bubble” in 2020, the Heat meekly bowed out during a four-game sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks in last season’s playoffs. But Miami once again looks primed to make a deep run.
The Heat rank fifth in the NBA in net rating. They rank second in 3-point percentage and sixth in assists while turning opposing teams over at a high clip. Reinforcements have also arrived.
Butler has harbored an ankle injury for a good part of the season, but he’s stringing together games. Adebayo is back in the rotation, giving Miami a two-way star who immediately bolsters the frontcourt. The Heat figure to make moves either before the Feb. 10 trade deadline or in the buyout market. If not, Victor Oladipo should eventually make his return down the stretch. In short, things are coming together.
Miami will be a tough out come playoff time. The Heat will look to Butler to help them reach the pinnacle, with Jimmy Buckets having the opportunity to cement himself alongside Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and others as a franchise legend.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.